Arkansas claims heptathlon crown in final event, 20th national championship
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- If Arkansas needed something to kick-start its second day at the 2013 NCAA DI Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships, it got it early Saturday from junior Kevin Lazas.
In the first event to be decided on the second and final day of the competition, the heptathlon, Lazas came into the concluding 1,000-meter race needing to finish within about 4.5 points of Wisconsin junior Japheth Cato to claim the title.
“I gave it all I had,” Lazas said, who ended the race by falling across the finish line in exhaustion. “If I didn’t win I would be mad, but there was nothing I could have done. I didn’t have anything left.”
Thankfully for the Razorbacks, Lazas finished just 3.24 seconds behind Cato, enough to win the heptathlon by the slightest of margins (6,175 points-6,165 in the seven-event competition) and claim 10 points for his Razorbacks in the team competition.
“We had a really good night last night, and I knew I had to come out and keep it going,” Lazas said.
And as the day went on, the top-ranked Razorbacks indeed kept going. When they ended the night by setting a new collegiate record in the 4x400 relay, the were simply padding the margin of victory on first NCAA indoor title since 2006.
“To get this done, you need a special group of athletes,” Arkansas head coach Chris Bucknam said, who won his first national championship since arriving in Fayetteville in 2009. “The coaching staff had everything in place. I’m really proud of how these guys got it together. We followed the plan, and we came in here and got it done.”
Arkansas, which now has a record 20 NCAA indoor championships, won this year’s title with all-around balance. The Hogs won just three events — pole vault, heptathlon and 4x400 relay — but scored the most points, 74, than any NCAA indoor champion since Arkansas scored 94 in 1994. Three-time defending champions Florida finished second with 59 points.
Perhaps the biggest individual star on Saturday night, however, was Arizona junior Lawi Lalang. The Eldoret, Kenya native took the track twice in the span of about one hour and 45 minutes and won the mile and the 3,000-meter races in meet record times.
“I was really prepared,” Lalang said, who won the 3,000-5,000 double at last year’s NCAA indoors. “I’ve been training well and it was just a matter of going there and doing it.”
Several other individuals starred on the weekend. Earlier on Saturday, Virginia Tech senior Andrew Ziegler won his first weight throw title with a toss of 22.46m/73-08 ¼. He has won two NCAA titles outdoors in the hammer throw. Meanwhile, in the high jump, Indiana senior and Olympic bronze medalist Derek Drouin won against a dominant field that included Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard of Kansas State. His final height of 2.35m/7-8 ½ was just sort of the NCAA record.
On Fridayy, senior Jordan Clarke, the latest shot put star out of Arizona State, easily continued his streak as NCAA champion. With a throw of 20.50m (67-03.25), he claimed his fourth consecutive NCAA title in the event, having also won the 2011 and 2012 outdoor titles and the 2012 indoor title. The win also gave ASU nine of the previous 11 total NCAA shot put titles.
“It feel really good right now,” Clarke said. “I’ve probably only taken three and a half weeks off in the last 12 months, so I’ve been working every day for a while. I’m happy that all of my hard work is finally paying off.”
Only one other athlete has won five consecutive NCAA shot put titles, which Clarke will have an opportunity to do at the outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore.
Two others defended their NCAA titles on Friday night. Anthony Irwin, an Arkansas sophomore, set a personal best at 18-1 ¼ to defend his pole vault title. Texas A&M senior Ameer Webb claimed his second consecutive 200-meter title in 20.42 after setting the world-leading time of 20.37 in the prelim.
“It was a goal to defend my title,” Webb said. “I wasn’t going to lay down and play dead. I had to defend my title and not let it go.”
Princeton won the distance medley relay to claim its first national indoor title since 2002. The team of junior Michael Williams (1,200), senior Austin Hollimon (400), senior Russell Dinkins (800) and senior Peter Callahan (1,600) held off Penn State by nearly a second to finish in 9:33.01.